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Retract the WCC press release on IT outsourcing

In January, an online news magazine called The Hechinger Report published a rather lengthy piece on outsourcing in higher education. The article included a skewed interpretation of a WCC press release announcing the decision to outsource its IT Department.

The author never talked to anyone at WCC or any of the workers who lost their jobs. Instead, the author relied solely on a May 22, 2019 press release and subsequent financial disclosures regarding the cost of the employee buyout.

The paragraph regarding WCC, which includes a live link to the WCC press release, reads in full:

“But outsourcing doesn’t always save as much as promised. After Washtenaw Community College in Michigan got fed up with the rising cost of, and escalating problems with, its information technology department, it signed a five-year contract in 2019 worth about $26 million with the private company Ellucian to provide IT services at what it announced would be a savings of more than $600,000 a year. Subsequent financial documents show that buying out its own full-time IT employees cost the college roughly $2.3 million, wiping out nearly four years of those savings.”

…fed up with the rising cost of, and escalating problems with its information technology department…

Damage worsens every day the WCC press release remains public

20 months later, the WCC press release still molders quietly on the College website. The Hechinger Report told its higher education readership that WCC was “fed up with” its problematic IT Department and fired them.

While these are interesting suggestions, the facts do not fit that narrative. They also do not reflect what the WCC Administration privately told the IT employees they fired. The author did nothing more than a Google search, and landed on this inaccurate, disparaging WCC press release, which the Administration simply published, and then abandoned.

The WCC Administration dodged a bullet on this, because the Washington Post republished The Hechinger Report story. Fortunately for WCC, the WaPo, whose circulation is a lot larger trimmed the story, and eliminated the derogatory implication of WCC’s IT staff. Unfortunately, the higher education community is now under the impression that WCC’s in-house IT staff was problematic, expensive, and incompetent.

Allowing this “impression” to fester comes dangerously close to libel. It also likely violates the mutual non-disparagement clause of the separation agreement.

Words matter. Retract the press release.

The contents of a WCC press release led a reasonable person with limited knowledge of the situation to a conclusion. The College fired its IT staff because it was “fed up with” them. Those workers were justifiably terminated because they were “problematic” and “expensive.” Then the author broadcasted that impression to its national readership as fact. And through its formal published communication, WCC supports that interpretation.

Enough is enough. It is beyond time for the WCC Administration to:
A.) Retract the offending press release before it does additional reputational damage to the former employees;
B.) Issue a public apology to the former IT employees for the misleading and disparaging content of the release; and
C.) Contact the author of The Hechinger Report article and seek a public retraction.

The WCC Administration stubbornly refuses to acknowledge the IT staff’s nearly 400 years of combined service. However, disparaging them in perpetuity must stop immediately.

Anything less is unacceptable.